Monday 2 January 2023

Quotations from the late, much lamented Pope Benedict XVI

I loved Pope Benedict XVI very much indeed, more than any other public figure in my lifetime.

I regretted the Diana-ification of the Papacy under Pope John Paul II. For a monarchist the monarch's personality is not important and for a Catholic nor is the Pope's, but a pope should be holy and holiness is loveable. He should also be profound. Pope Benedict XVI was extraordinarily loveable and profound. I admired him without reservation. 

I suspect Benedict was the most intellectually exciting head of state since Marcus Aurelius, though the late Queen Elizabeth II was probably equally nice. 

I once said that Benedict and Donald Trump were the only conservative heads of state since Charles de Gaulle. 

Was that an exaggeration? I expect so.

There was Lee of Singapore, but he was not head of state. He was a Social Democrat, though this does not mean he was not a conservative.

All popes, by definition, have to be conservative. You might be forgiven not realising this, when the present Pope develops the faith and condemns 'rigidity', but it is so. 

Handing down the faith taught by the apostles is what popes do. 

I agree with this article, by David Goldman, who's Jewish, from 2005. 

He sees the Catholic Church as essential for Western civilisation and says Cardinal Ratzinger saw before most people that both were on the brink of catastrophic decline.


He saw this long before Douglas Murray. 

I recommend this article by Melanie McDonagh, whom I knew at university. She is always fun to read and very brainy.

Melanie quotes from his address to the University of Regensburg, where he quoted the Byzantine 
emperor Manuel II Palaiologos speaking to a learned Persian during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402:

‘[The Emperor] addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable, [Melanie's emphasis] on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly”… The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature.’

With her emphasis, it is hard to see why people were outraged, except that the words touched on one of the many groups who may not be criticised.

This quotation is from Cardinal Ratzinger's (as he then was) 2004 essay “If Europe Hates Itself”.

'At the hour of its greatest success, Europe seems hollow, as if it were internally paralyzed by a failure of its circulatory system that is endangering its life, subjecting it to transplants that erase its identity. At the same time as its sustaining spiritual forces have collapsed, a growing decline in its ethnicity is also taking place.

'Europe is infected by a strange lack of desire for the future. Children, our future, are perceived as a threat to the present, as though they were taking something away from our lives. Children are seen—at least by some people—as a liability rather than as a source of hope. Here it is obligatory to compare today’s situation with the decline of the Roman Empire. In its final days, Rome still functioned as a great historical framework, but in practice its vital energy had been depleted.'

'Man no longer thinks he needs to be justified in God’s sight, but rather God must justify himself.

'...Even if today the majority of Christians would not share such a drastic overturning of our faith, you could say that it indicates a basic tendency.'

"From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, she will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly she will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Alongside this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world."

“What threatens democracy today? ...
First, there is the inability to be reconciled with the imperfection of human affairs. ...a sort of secular messianic belief has penetrated deep into the general consciousness. ...The notion that all history to date has been the history of bondage but that now, finally, the just society can and must be built soon is propagated in various slogans among atheists and Christians alike...”

From his homily to his fellow-cardinals before the conclave at which he was elected pope un 2005. The homily may well have led them to choose him.

"We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognise anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires."

From 'Homosexualitis problema', a letter to bishops on the pastoral care of homosexuals, 1986.

"Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."

From Introduction to Christianity, 1968.

'All being is a product of thought and, indeed, in its innermost structure is itself thought.' 

From “Salt of the Earth”.

“People think they know the Church. They think she is a very ancient system that has become sclerotic over time, that gets progressively more insulated and rigid, that forms a sort of armor that smothers one’s personal life. That is the impression of many people. Few people manage to recognize instead that there is something fresh and also bold and large-minded here, something that offers escape from the stale habits of one’s life. But precisely those who have gone through the experience of modernity see this.” 

'Eternity is not the very ancient, which existed before time began, but the entirely other, which is related to every passing age as its today and is really contemporary with it; it is not barred off into a 'before' and 'after'; it is much more the power of the present in all time.'

From 'Spirit of the Liturgy', in 2000.

'For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 [the older Latin Mass] should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church’s whole past. How can one trust her at present if things are that way?' 

In his address to the Curia in December 2012 he condemned the idea that we can choose or change our gender.

'According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply.

'No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on, he is merely spirit and will.

'The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned.

In a conversation with Peter Seewald in 2021 he said

“However, the actual threat to the church, and so to the papacy, does not come from these things [corruption, Vatileaks, etc] but from the global dictatorship of ostensibly humanist ideologies. Contradicting them means being excluded from the basic social consensus. A hundred years ago anyone would have found it absurd to speak of homosexual marriage. Today anyone opposing it is socially excommunicated. The same goes for abortion and creating human beings in a laboratory. Modern society is formulating an anti-Christian creed and opposing it is punished with social excommunication. It is only natural to fear this spiritual power of Antichrist and it really needs help from the prayers of a whole diocese and the world church to resist it."

He gave interviews and took to Twitter. This was his final tweet before he abdicated (I wish people didn't say he 'resigned').

'Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.'

In 1997, when asked on Bavarian television whether or not the Holy Ghost chooses the pope, the then Cardinal Ratzinger answered:

'I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope…I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined. There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!'

(The best pope in centuries, alas, was succeeded by the worst in centuries.)

In an open letter, refuting charges that he had been too lenient with a priest who interfered with boys, on 6 February 2022:

“Quite soon, I shall find myself before the final judge of my life. Even though, as I look back on my long life, I can have great reason for fear and trembling, I am nonetheless of good cheer, for I trust firmly that the Lord is not only the just judge, but also the friend and brother who himself has already suffered for my shortcomings, and is thus also my advocate, my ‘Paraclete. In light of the hour of judgment, the grace of being a Christian becomes all the more clear to me. It grants me knowledge, and indeed friendship, with the judge of my life, and thus allows me to pass confidently through the dark door of death."

His last words, in Italian. "I love you, Lord."


  1. So a bit of a buffet Catholic then?


  3. The "resignation" in 2013 was a terrible tragedy, humanity has been, and is being, greatly harmed by this "resignation".

    1. I regret it enormously. I learnt this week that Benedict, who had had a minir stroke amd other problems, resigned because he had a mystical experience in which God told him to abdicate. I also read that he expected a certain good cardinal to succeed him. I forget the name.

    2. You hint at forces behind Pope Francis. Whom do you have in mind?

    3. Partly a theological group - what was once known as the St Gallen group, but also financial interests. Remember the cash machines were turned off in 2013 - and representatives of, for example, the World Economic Forum have now been appointed to various Vatican bodies - including the Congregation for Life. It is hard to see Benedict appointing such people (who are atheist and pro abortion) to such bodies. One mistake that is made to call the St Gallen group Marxist - strictly speaking they were more Hegelian than Marxist, believing in a God of Surprises about whom understanding changed due to the fruitful mixing of radically opposing world-views (thesis, anti thesis, synthesis). This is very unlike traditional Christianity which teaches that God has a unchanging message that can be taught to people. Benedict was German by nationality - but not Hegelian. Whereas a Gentleman who arrived from Argentina to Germany is very much an Hegelian - please note that I wrote Hegelian (not Marxist) - left Hegelian most certainly, but not a formal Marxist.

    4. The self styled 'St Galen mafia' and 'Uncle Ted' Theodore McCarrick certainly succeeded where the supporters of Cardinal Martini had failed in 1978 and 2005.

  4. " I also read that he expected a certain good cardinal to succeed him. I forget the name." Kinda like Brexit then. Did not turn out quite as expected.

  5. Cardinal Scola, Archbishop of Milan was the man Damian Thompson mentioned.